When you’re grieving – particularly after the death of a loved one – you might experience decision fatigue. This happens in response to the number of decisions you’ve been forced to make over a very short period of time, deteriorating the quality of those decisions.
As you can imagine, what you eat – the result of small decisions we make throughout each day – is a common victim of decision fatigue. Suddenly, making “good” choices about what you eat seems strenuous and even debilitating. So you opt out of the decision altogether and forgo eating, or make the easiest and most comforting decision and gulp down an unhealthy meal of French fries and donut holes.
Grieving and your weight
If you’re like many of us, you’ve spent much of your life concerned (or at least conscious) about your weight. Surely when you’re grieving, you can put your health on the back burner, right? No way. Unfortunately, those unhealthy food decisions are doing more than packing on pounds – they’re exacerbating your grief by sapping any energy you still have, releasing heavy amounts of cortisol, the stress hormone that contributes to weight gain, and leading to blood sugar shifts that make you feel worse.
I wish I could say I knew exactly how to handle my grief when I was confronted with it a few years ago. But after my husband Bill’s suicide, I completely neglected my health and body. As a fitness professional, I had practiced healthy diet and exercise for years. But faced with the void that was my husband’s death, my healthy eating habits and gym routine went out the window. Instead, I spent hours lying in bed feeling numb and thinking about my husband. It didn’t occur to me to eat until my blood sugar was so low I felt lightheaded. By the time of Bill’s memorial service, I had lost 15 pounds and looked a decade older.
Faced with the void that was my husband’s death, my healthy eating habits and gym routine went out the window.Weight loss might sound like a silver lining to a bad situation, but in this case, it isn’t. I didn’t feel healthy. Instead, I felt weak, drawn and tired. My body was stripped of the vital nutrients it so desperately needed. It took me a good six months to resume my healthy eating and exercise habits. I often think of how much better equipped I would have been to handle my grief had I nourished my body appropriately.
How to eat while grieving
As I said before, this isn’t a time when you want to be faced with decisions day-in and day-out. In my book, “What I Wish I’d Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief,” I outline grocery lists and meal plans to alleviate these decisions. Planning is key; if you already know what you’re going to eat during the day (and bonus if it’s already prepared!), there’s no decision required. A few other things I’ve learned along the way:
Lunch: large salad with turkey
Snack: apple with almond butter
Dinner: turkey spinach burger with or without the bun, sweet potato and mixed-green salad with dressing
For more information on dealing with grief, visit thegriefgirl.com
There are limitless reasons to live, but here are 13 compelling reasons suicide is not the answer.
If you didn’t catch my recent podcast, I spoke in depth about teen suicide and depression, particularly as the topic is portrayed in “13 Reasons Why,” a popular Netflix series. As I expressed in my last blog, the series has brought to light many of the challenges teens face today. However, I found it seriously lacking in direction and hope.
That hope is so critical for teens who are suffering. I’ve said it before: people don’t need 13 reasons to complete suicide. They need one big reason to complete suicide and they need no one to step in and help. What I’d like to offer teens who have watched “13 Reasons Why” are 13 completely different ideas: 13 reasons not to complete suicide.
13 Reasons Not to Complete Suicide
1. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.I read somewhere that “suicide is the one mistake you won’t live to regret.” Living a life of regret isn’t healthy, but as long as you’re living, you have the opportunity to change and progress. Suicide isn’t a solution to a problem; it is a final, irrevocable, unchangeable mistake. What makes life beautiful is that it allows us to change, to heal, to right the wrongs, to forgive others and seek forgiveness in return. Suicide robs you of all of this.
2. You may have depression, which is an illness and it is treatable.If you found out tomorrow that you had cancer, would you end your life or would you fight back? Depression is an illness, and it’s as real as any other illness, with symptoms that are both physical and emotional.
3. Depression is a liar. You wouldn’t give someone who lied to you the time of day, so why give a liar your life?My husband Bill put his all into everything he did. He was passionate about his career as a health and fitness professional. He was dedicated to his family and loved ones. But he allowed depression to take his life – and that permanent decision was the only mistake he couldn’t take back. Depression plants thoughts and feelings into your head that aren’t real. Don’t believe them, and don’t let them take your life.
4. It’s not your fault. Whatever you are going through, it’s not your fault.If you suffer from depression, chances are, you don’t deserve it. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can be caused by genetics, brain biology and chemistry, life events and trauma, loss of a loved one, difficult relationships, early childhood experiences or stressful situations. If you are depressed, it’s likely due to a factor beyond your control, but what is in your control is your decision to get help.
5. Things can (and will) change. What you are feeling isn’t permanent. The first step to any change is making the decision to ask for help.Sometimes it’s hard to know where to go for help. Your parents, teachers and counselors are the obvious first lines of defense, but if you don’t feel like you can go to them, talk to any responsible adult you trust about what you’re feeling. Additionally, there are a myriad of resources available for teens who feel exactly like you do. They’re listed at the end of this blog and are available for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
6. You matter: to your family, to the people whose lives you have touched.Sometimes depression is the result of a family situation that is less-than ideal. Sometimes, it happens despite loving, supportive parents and a healthy home life. Regardless of your specific situation, never doubt that you matter. You haven’t lived this long without touching someone’s life and heart – whether that includes your parents, grandparents, relatives, friends, teachers or community or church leaders.
7. You are loved. It may not feel like it sometimes, but when you have depression, it’s hard to let any outside affection in.Believe that it’s there – a lot of love is there. As a living, breathing human being, you have a great capacity to love and be loved in returned. When you have depression, it can be very difficult to feel that love. According to Good Therapy, depression can prevent you from feeling love for a spouse or family member, and even trick you into thinking that any love you felt in the past wasn’t real. These feeling might happen in episodes or intensify over time. It’s important to believe in love – believe you can give it and receive it again.
8. There is help. Suicide has affected so many lives, and because of this, there are many amazing resources for all ages to get the care and hope they need to heal.Every year, more than 34,000 people die by suicide – an average of 94 completed suicides each day, according to Emory University. No one wants you to become a statistic. There are so many people and organizations who want to help you. The resources I list at the end of this blog are a good place to start, but are just a drop in the bucket of the support you’ll find when you ask for help.
9. You are not alone. The way you feel is individual, but there are so many people who also feel the same pain. Knowing you’re not alone can help ease the decision to get help.Suffering from depression can be a lonely, isolating experience. But did you know that 350 million people around the world feel like you do? Everyone experiences the symptoms of depression differently, but you are not alone in feeling the way you do – not even close.
10. You will feel whole and healthy again.I don’t say this as trite consolation. I know this because I have seen it in action. As a certified grief counselor and mental health educator, I know that healing is possible. I have seen teens who felt just like you get the help they need, treat their depression and move on to live happy, fulfilled and successful lives. When you choose the path to heal, a new world of possibilities opens up for you. It’s time for you to find out what’s waiting for you in that world.
11. Relief is around the corner.Maybe you’re not ready yet to change your life. But I bet you are ready for a bit of relief. Whether that’s relief from excruciating pain to relief from crippling anxiety to relief from overwhelming numbness. Depression manifests itself in so many different ways, but none of them feel good. Treating your depression is like treating any pain – it may take time to heal, but you’ll likely feel some relief immediately.
12. Time is on your side. What’s great about the choice to heal is that you can take your time. Heal on your own terms. You are in the ultimate control and that is motivating and powerful.No one says you need to feel better overnight. When you decide to seek help and healing – to live – you’ve already given yourself a wonderful gift: TIME. Some people might feel better quickly, while others will need to work through their depression for the rest of their lives. That doesn’t mean you can’t live a meaningful, happy and fulfilled life. Give the process a chance; give it the gift you’re not willing to sacrifice to your depression – your time.
13. You are incredible. You have laughed at this, but you are. You are unique, real, alive and you have the strength to take control and seek the help and hope you deserve.Perhaps Dr. Seuss said it best when he said “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” As a unique individual with distinctive thoughts and experiences, you have a lot to offer the world. Getting help is the first step to showing the world all you have to offer – and getting what you deserve from the world. Your strength is greater than you know; and it’s sufficient (and then some!) to get help and work through this. You’ve got this!
For information, advice, hope and direction on teen depression and suicide, visit The Grief Girl. If you need help right away, these resources are always here for you:
Teenline (This is a crisis hotline for teens to talk to other teens): 800-TLC-TEEN
AFSP American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: 800-273-TALK(8255)
Trevor Lifeline (Crisis line for LGBTQ youth): 866-488-7386
Bullying Hotline: 800-273-8255
National Eating Disorder Association: 800-931-2237
National Alcohol and Drug Abuse Hotline: 877-437-8422
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.